Not Myself Without You
I loved this novel the first time I read it in its original Spanish edition under the title Sin ti no soy yo (Ediciones Puerto, 2005). And I loved it just as much now that I read it in its English translation titled Not Myself Without You (Bilingual Press, 2012).
A playful and powerful novel that in the book jacket is described as a fictionalized memoir, Not Myself Without You is a gripping tale centered around family and neighborhood life in Santurce, Puerto Rico, featuring numerous fascinating characters, love affairs, hatreds, betrayals, politics and a very popular Spiritist temple. But though Santurce serves as the spatial axis, the novel also moves across various sites of Puerto Rican migration including New York, Spain and a few countries throughout the Caribbean Basin, thus making the text refreshingly immersed in the complex geographic movement that pervades Caribbean experiences. Also significant is the fact that the social fabric of Vázquez’s Santurce weaves together the inextricable experiences of the various ethnic groups that live and struggle together in that neighborhood—most notably Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Dominicans and Cubans.
This novel’s understated but wicked humor, as well as its eroticism, are wonderful lenses with which to approach somber themes like abuse, trauma, poverty and political violence. Its aesthetic unorthodoxy that splices together prayers, rituals, family photographs, popular sayings, and interviews, among other imaginative sources, makes the narrative even more compelling.
Though no one character hogs the limelight, many of them leave indelible marks in readers’ imagination. I was particularly impressed and intrigued by the cannabis-loving great-aunts who ask that, upon their death, their ashes be scattered throughout New York City’s Central Park.
* Publicado originalmente en La Bloga.